Partnership Between Jaguars' Leonard Fournette and Jay Gruden Off to Solid Start
The Jacksonville Jaguars are still in the infancy stage of training camp -- pads have yet to even be donned by the players. But even while that fact remains, there is still chemistry that needs to be developed on the practice field each day, both between players and the coaching staff.
One partnership that will need to mesh and get in sync quicker than most is that between running back Leonard Fournette and new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Gruden's offenses have historically relied upon workhorse backs, while Fournette is entering a pivotal contract season. For the Jaguars to be successful on offense, they will need each to help the other.
"As a player, I know he’s a powerful guy with a lot of speed. I did a lot of work on him coming out of LSU and obviously his statistics, his durability, everything was status quo," Gruden said Wednesday.
"He’s a great player and everything you’ve seen on tape with Jacksonville, his production last year was excellent, and so far so good. He’s been working hard. He’s learning our new system and I’m excited to work with him.”
While Gruden has yet to see what Fournette can do with the pads on, he has been able to see how he approaches practice, how he is adjusting to the playbook and more. And so far, so good, at least in Gruden's eyes.
"But as far as interactions with coaches, it’s been positive with me so far. He’s willing to learn and we’re teaching him some new things, some new concepts, new techniques so to speak, and he’s bought in and he’s learning," Gruden said.
"We haven’t done any full speed stuff yet where I can see how hard he works in practice but so far from a mental standpoint, he’s been a treat to be around. He’s been learning, he’s been attentive, and I like him.”
As for Fournette, the former No. 4 overall pick who rushed for a career-high 1,152 yards (4.3 yards per carry average), he is looking to carve out a big role in Gruden's offense in what is likely the most important year of his career to this point. Fournette is essentially auditioning for the services of 32 teams after 2020, so whether he excels in Gruden's offense will certainly have an impact.
Luckily for Fournette, the veteran running back has taken a liking to Gruden and the way he approached the offensive side of the ball. Considering that a good offense means a good season from Fournette in most cases, this is all Fournette could hope for.
“Not just me, I think he’s going to let every athlete on the offensive side who has the talent and the ability to make plays - I think he’s going to do a great job of kind of passing that ball around and showing guy’s talent," Fournette said Monday.
"He has a great personality and I love him as a coach right now. He’s outgoing and he’s uplifting guys. He’s positive in everything he does. There’s not a day you go around where you see him looking sad. He’s smiling, he’s joking 24/7.”
It won't be for another week for Gruden to see up close how well Fournette runs behind his pads in his scheme. It won't be another month until he sees Fournette as his offensive battering ram in a regular season game. But for now, the Jaguars will take any small victories they can get, and the partnership of Gruden and Fournette getting off to a comfortable start is certainly one.